In years past, many companies viewed the IT organization as a reactionary cost centre. If someone in the company needed a computer, server, piece of software, or anything in between, the IT department went out and bought it, and that was that. Over time, the IT landscape became a patchworked hodgepodge that was difficult to manage, maintain, support, and keep secure.
Under these circumstances, the IT department is part of the problem, not part of the solution, because what it was missing was an IT strategy plan. Software that doesn’t meet business requirements, obsolete hardware, and isolated systems become the glaring evidence of money wasted and an IT structure that is disconnected from the company’s mission and goals.
Let’s look at an IT strategy plan example and its essential components.
What Is an IT Strategy Plan?
An IT strategy plan is a guiding document for a company’s IT organization. It defines the overall goals, the strategies that support those goals, and the tactics that are needed to execute those strategies.
Each section of the IT strategy plan focuses on one strategy and describes specific activities needed to implement that strategy. Think of it as a high-level project plan for realizing a strategy.
IT Strategy Plan vs an actual IT Strategy: The plan is like a large schedule to address all gaps between the current state of IT and meeting best practices. It will address all initiatives that lead to business outcomes and goals. Initiatives that require time and resources from IT department to be able to execute such as:
- Better IT support response times
- Enhancing digital experience
- Offering new products digitally
- Expanding globally
- Cutting costs
- Better workflow
- Leveraging automation
- Increasing sales
- Opening new offices
Example of an IT Strategy Plan chart
The scope and format of an IT strategy plan varies from company to company, but one thing remains constant: The IT strategy plan must be aligned with, and support, the company’s overall business vision. IT cannot work in a vacuum; every initiative pursued, and every dollar spent must support the goals and mission of the company.
With a solid strategy plan, IT becomes a partner in the business: a part of the solution.
Components of an IT Strategy Plan
So what does an IT strategy example look like? Let’s start with some of the core components. This IT strategy document example can be modified to meet the specific needs of a given business.
Alignment with business strategy and objectives: The IT strategy plan should demonstrate an understanding of alignment with the business strategy, so that the IT strategies support the business strategies. Business strategies that require large investments in IT infrastructure or software solutions should be specifically called out. It’s easy to misinterpret or misunderstand company goals if you’re getting them through the grapevine; this is why it’s essential for IT leadership to have a seat at the table for every business strategic planning meeting.
Long-term initiatives: Closely related to the previous point, any good IT strategy map example should include long-term initiatives (defined as those that will take three to five years to implement). For example, if one of the business strategies is to have a better customer digital experience, you may want to develop a suite of mobile apps over the next few years. If the company has no in-house development resources, the related IT initiative might be to build a mobile app development team and outfit it with the proper tools, processes, and training. Or partner with an IT service provider with the necessary skills to see your project through to completion. Again, it’s essential to keep these initiatives aligned with company goals and desired outcomes.
Technology roadmap: Technology naturally evolves over time, constantly providing opportunities to provide better, faster, cheaper service. When reviewing IT strategy examples, technology should take centre stage considering its role in IT.
For example, many companies are seeing the advantages of moving their on-premise data centres to cloud service providers such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The IT strategy roadmap example section should describe the technology directions that will best support the business and a high-level plan for getting there from the current state. Because it can be difficult to foresee what new technology developments would benefit a given business, it’s sometimes easy to go in a direction that ends up being wrong. Therefore, an IT strategy often covers a set of principles to govern the appropriate level of diligence or risk taking on new technology trends for different business goals.
Best practices: A key component in the IT organization’s ability to support the business is its adherence to best practices, such as the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL). This section should identify the gaps in the organization’s adherence to best practices and how those gaps will be filled. Getting this right requires expertise in IT best practices. No IT organization adopts these best practices overnight; it’s a journey that often takes many years. But the best IT business strategy examples take heed of best practices.
IT governance: Related to IT best practices is IT governance, the policies and procedures that define how the IT organization accepts, evaluates, launches, and controls new initiatives, quality and budget. Like best practices, these IT strategy example documents in many organizations have room for improvement. This section discusses identifies the IT governance gaps and plans for improvement.
IT service catalog: Supporting the business means implementing a standard catalog of IT services that is aligned with the needs of the business. This section should describe any gaps in the current IT service catalog and the plan for filling those gaps. However, some gaps are harder (or more expensive) to fill than others, and it’s easy to be too ambitious here.
Communication plan: One key to success in any organization is transparency: Clear communication on the current state, upcoming changes, the reasons for those changes, and the status of in-flight initiatives. If the IT organization does not have a working communications apparatus to keep its customers informed, this section outlines how it intends to get there. IT organizations need to be careful not to over-message, however, because too much just becomes so much ignored spam.
IT principles, metrics, and financials: This section answers questions such as: What is IT’s guiding principles? How does the IT organization measure its success? What key performance indicators will guide the organization to continuously improve? What is the budgetary model for capital investments, operational expenses, and chargebacks? These IT strategy statement examples need to be carefully aligned with the rest of the business and work with the company’s overall financial model.
Holistic design: This section describes the design principles to be adopted or refined for use in every IT solution, and should include the IT test strategy. For example, a holistic design approach to IT strategic planning considers people, processes, and technology. The tricky part is sticking with the chosen principles and not backsliding into suboptimal but familiar ways of operating.
Developing an IT Strategy Plan
Developing a solid, comprehensive IT strategy plan can be hard work, because the team’s ambitions have to be balanced against the resources available to bring them to life. There will be several cycles of draft and review with business leadership to settle on a strategy plan that works for both IT and the rest of the business.
Many organizations find the task too daunting, and too easy to get wrong, to build an IT strategy plan on their own. It’s too important, however, to ignore it or give it short shrift. If needed, engage with outside expert resources to help. It’s the one thing that will transform IT from a reputation as a necessary evil to an essential part of the business.